White House vaccine mandate includes Augusta hospital employees

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — The White House will require 100 million Americans to be vaccinated against COVID-19 under its new mandate, including thousands in Augusta. Under the plan, employees working at healthcare facilities that receive Medicaid or Medicare will be required to be vaccinated. This is “including but not limited to hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies,” according to the White House.

“Almost all hospitals as well as skilled nursing facilities, really most healthcare providers, accept Medicare and Medicaid funds,” Dr. Phillip Coule, the Chief Medical Officer of AU Health, says.

The mandate is already facing lawsuits. If it is implemented, it would affect Augusta University Medical Center, University Hospital and Doctors Hospital. Employees at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center are required to be vaccinated by October 8 under a separate mandate.

“The science and medicine alone would suggest that vaccines protect our patients,” Coule explains. “Vaccines protect our healthcare workers. Vaccinations help to protect patients from healthcare workers who might be exposed to someone who has COVID-19.” 

Few details about the mandate have been released. More information is expected in October. A spokesperson for University Hospital tells NewsChannel 6 it needs “a lot more information” before it can be implemented at its facility. Doctors Hospital provided the following statement to NewsChannel 6:

“We will review the details of President Biden’s plan and respond accordingly, just as we have in states that have mandated vaccination. HCA Healthcare helps to ensure a safe environment by following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and our infectious disease experts have been strongly encouraging vaccination as a critical step to protect individuals from the virus. Additionally, our hospitals follow guidance outlined by the CDC regarding protocols for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in our facilities, including universal masking for all colleagues, patients and visitors.”

Doctors Hospital

At Augusta University Medical Center, a majority of employees are already vaccinated.

“About 98 percent of our physicians and advanced practice providers — those would be nurse practitioners and PAs — are vaccinated. It’s slightly lower in our staff. Overall, we are at about 65 percent.”

55 percent of employees at University Hospital are fully vaccinated, while 59 percent have received at least one shot. A spokesperson from Doctors Hospital was unable to disclose how many of its employees were inoculated.

Vaccine mandates are nothing new for hospitals. Many require employees to receive the flu vaccine.

“All of our employees, who have anything to do with patients, are required to get the flu vaccine,” Dr. Rodger MacArthur, an infectious diseases physician at AU Health, says.

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